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The Resilient Recruiter

Jul 23, 2021

I love hearing success stories, don’t you? I’m especially fascinated by fast-growing recruitment companies. Alex Zoboli and Matt Nichols have a track record of successfully building teams and creating rapid growth.  In our conversation, you will hear them share the success factors that enabled them to grow a recruitment business from 50 to 200 staff in just four years.  

They also shared how they started their business during the pandemic and scaled up to 40 people in 18 months. We discussed a number of critical components in building your business for growth, such as goal setting, hiring, internal growth, and teaching moments from mistakes and failures.

Alex and Matt are the founders of Cornerstone Recruitment Japan. Cornerstone is focused on placing bi-lingual professionals in a wide range of market-leading companies across all sectors. They are one of the fastest growing recruitment companies in Japan with a team of 40 and the only recruitment firm with backing from a major investment bank in Tokyo. Prior to founding Cornerstone Recruitment Japan, they were Directors with RGF Professional Recruitment Japan for four years.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [1:15] Alex & Matt shared how and why they launched their business in Japan.
  • [5:22] The second biggest recruitment market in the world: what is recruiting like in Japan?
  • [12:30] Scaling a business from 50 to 200 in 4 years - what are the three critical success factors? 
  • [16:40] Hiring their first 50 - how Alex & Matt persuaded good talents to jump onboard.
  • [21:27] Adding value to inexperienced and experienced recruiters and attracting great recruiters to your business.
  • [32:18] How to know if a newly hired team member will be successful? Hear Alex & Matt’s viewpoints.
  • [34:40] Why go for a team player instead of a ‘lone wolf’ achiever?
  • [41:00] Laying out a career path for your team.
  • [45:20] Teaching moments - sharing of mistakes and learnings when hiring people.

Scaling From 50 to 200 in Four Years

After sharing what motivated them to launch their business in Japan, I asked Alex and Matt on the critical success factors when scaling a business. They are pretty much specialists when growing a recruitment business - with a proven track record of having grown a previous business from 50 to 200 staff in four years! 

Matt said, “For me the key is you gotta set the goal of what you want to achieve for the business really early, and you really got to commit to it. It’s got to stay part of the fabric of the business every single step of the way.” Matt added, “The other thing for me also is, your first 50 people are absolutely crucial if you’re gonna scale a big business. Your first 50 people should contain most of your future senior leadership team.” 

Alex shared a third factor, “I think in general you have to have the ambition to do it. I think not everybody wants to have a big business. Having a big business and scaling in a short period of time is extremely stressful and a lot of hard work… You’re doing it really because you really want to do it. I think that is our success factor. The fact that we just really want to do it, that’s it.”

My takeaway is that they went into scaling their business by having a very specific vision that they want to achieve from day one. Knowing that it is going to be challenging, stressful and difficult, for Alex and Matt it is entirely deciding that they want to make that commitment and make it happen. 

Establishing the Dynamics and Finding the Team Player 

When growing your business, it is important to establish the dynamics of your team. Part of choosing a talent is to not only consider their performance but rather how he or she can affect the entire dynamics with the tenured members. You would want people who are ambitious and want to achieve and those who want to be team players, but those two don’t always go hand in hand. So, I asked Matt and Alex on how they would usually deal with this element. Matt explained, “We would avoid the lone wolf type of person. They are pretty easy to spot… Some of the top billers from a competitor, they’re not a team player at all and those are lone wolves. We’re not interested, we can do without the billing basically.” 

Matt and Alex mentioned some of the characteristics of who they would consider as team players:

  • Those who are not afraid to share leads
  • Those who are happy when their colleagues do well
  • Those who realize that they increase their chances of individually succeeding by working as a team.

In line with the above, Matt further elaborates on the characteristics of a smooth, functional and high-performing team. 

Alex Zoboli & Matt Nicholls Bio and Contact Info 

Alex and Matt are the founders of Cornerstone Recruitment Japan, the only recruitment firm with backing from a major investment bank in Tokyo and the fastest growing recruitment company in Japan. Matt has been in the recruitment industry for more than 15 years, starting as a Director with Nichole Lindsay in 2006. Alex started as a recruitment consultant with StaffBank recruitment in 2009. Both of them are now Managing Directors of Cornerstone Recruitment Japan and are aiming to be a major player in the Tokyo recruitment market and we are doing it by hiring the best recruiters in Japan and overseas.

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